My (Lisa's) great-great grandfather, Thomas Delthrop Burns, came to the Chama Valley in the mid-1860s. He married Josephina Gallegos, whose ancestors came to Abiquiu, New Mexico in 1598. He owned several mercantile stores in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado along the now defunct Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. Burns traded not only with settlers of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado but was also a trusted businessman with the Ute, Jicarilla and Navajo tribes. Burns also owned land throughout the Chama Valley, running thousands of head of sheep. Today as I stand looking over the valley of the Wolf Creek Ranch and admiring our grazing animals I like to imagine that I am standing in the same spot where he once stood gazing at his sheep herds.
My family has been connected to the Chama Valley since Abraham Lincoln was president. My husband, Robert, and I (Lisa) currently raise cattle and yaks on the our Wolf Creek Ranch and El Barranco Farm. Before we met, Robert received his Ph.D in Astrophysics and worked in the field for many years. Robert, however, comes from a long line of ranchers in Kansas. I spent my childhood summers on the Wolf Creek riding my horse around the valleys and mountains of the ranch. After college I earned my Juris Doctor degree and worked as aa law clerk for two federal judges in New Mexico prior to marrying Robert. We have two terrific kids who are now teenagers and navigating the ebbs and flows of high school and college.
Growing up and spending summers at the Wolf Creek Ranch in Chama, New Mexico (winters are too brutal to live at such a high elevation far from any town) has taught me a great deal about the beauty and fragility of the land and the animals, both wild and introduced (sheep, cattle, yaks, horses) that graze upon it.
As our children, Thomas and Gabriela, grew Robert and I enjoyed teaching them about the vast wonders of the land, both flora and fauna, that abound throughout the hillsides, valleys and stream bottoms of the ranch. Gabriela has spent many hours on horseback riding with me learning to gather the animals, look for strays, and fix fences. Thomas spent his middle school and high school years working for us as a ranch hand fixing and building fences, building a bridge and storage house and doing anything that needed tending. If he learned anything during those years it was a strong work ethic. Today he is in college studying computer engineering.
When we are not at the ranch we live in Durango, Colorado. I am an avid mountain biker and coach for both girls and ladies. I also love skiing and spending as much time as possible on my horse, Tara. When Robert is not busy with the business, he enjoys riding his horse, hiking and skiing. It’s also not uncommon for us to come upon Robert sitting at a table and working on a demanding physics problem “just for fun.” The eye rolls from our kids are priceless.
Volunteering for animal rescue organizations has been another top priority for many years. Our family has fostered too many dogs and puppies to count and Gabriela and I travel to the Navajo Reservation regularly to help at spay and neuter clinics. We also travel internationally to help with such clinics.
Ariel truly is a ranch manager extraordinaire. He is a native of Chama, whose family has ranched and worked cattle for generations. Ariel has been with us since 2017, and we would not be where we are today without his sweeping knowledge of animal husbandry and devotion to developing our lands in a dynamic and holistic manner. Ariel and his wife, Macaela, have three terrific kids – Sofia, Miguel, and Alijah. As with all parents of younger kids, the three bundles of energy keep him and Macaela on their toes. When Ariel comes up for air, he enjoys hunting, fishing, and of course, riding his horse, Galahad. Thank you, Ariel, for everything you do. We truly appreciate
Ariel gave Heather the “official title” of Freezer Boss, as she knows everything that goes in and out and never misses an ounce. And, it is Heather who packages everyone’s meat boxes, so we have a lot to be thankful to Heather since she is such an exceptional employee...and friend. Animals and their welfare have always been a top priority for Heather, so her knowledge of husbandry is superb. When Heather is not working she loves spending time exploring the mountains and valleys around Chama with her three daughters – Kaitlyn, Adriana and Natalie.
Alijah began helping his dad, Ariel, around the ranch and farm when he was 11 years old. He is now 15 and is continuing to help Ariel, but now he takes on much more responsibility. Not only does Alijah help move the yaks and cattle but he helps irrigate, fix fences, and pretty much anything else that needs to be done.
Alijah plays football and loves hanging with his friends. Cheeseburgers and tacos rank high in the food consumption category. However, as we adults probably remember, homework is a real bore, unless he has his favorite companion, Zia, at his side. Zia is his dog, and the two of them are practically inseparable unless Alijah is at school or at practice.
Robert and I are so thankful to have such a wonderful guy working for us during the summers and have enjoyed watching him grow into a strong and able young man.
Triny is by far the most exacting butcher Robert has ever worked with to process our meats. I once asked Triny what made him such an exceptional butcher besides having processed meats for over 30 years. He simply replied, “It’s a pride thing.”
And his pride shows in every cut of meat that comes out of his facility, which is only a few miles from our ranches. Triny individually hand carves every piece and personally selects each cut. Such care is imperative for an excellent tasting steak or roast.
Robert and I are excited to have teamed up with Triny, as he is as demanding with his butchering as we are with the quality of our meat.